Living in Peterborough, and with my parents living near the coast in Essex, going to visit them involved a 100 mile ride.
Due to the cross-country nature of my route, it would generally take about three hours. This particular route had been established a number of years earlier by my Dad as he came home from Clacton at weekends on his Lambretta scooter.
One of the significant factors on this route was a stretch of road which included four very sharp turns (each one was in excess of 90 degrees). My habit was to count them down as I proceeded “One down … three to go” “Two down… two to go” etc. This was rather important on a motorbike when out in the country and no speed limit on the road!
I believe the road was built centuries earlier when the land owners had to agree to a road being built through their lands and, in this particular part of the country, the landowners clearly declined the idea. Most of the major roads in England were oriented N- S, with a number in industrialized areas running E-W. This particular route was oriented NW – SE and so had to zig-zag across the country as it followed the boundary lines of various country estates!
On one particular ride on my Norton motorbike to visit them, I knew that I was approaching the first hairpin bend and slowed down to probably around 25mph to get around it (One down… three to go). I then accelerated and, a short time later, then slowed down again for the next one (Two down… two to go). This was repeated until I had rounded the last hairpin, after which I “opened her up” and was probably at around 60mph when I was suddenly on top of another hairpin!
To this day, I am not sure how I managed to miss-count, but I certainly did. There were in fact only four hairpin bends so I can only assume that my mind was elsewhere!
Coming up to a hairpin bend (probably 110-120 degrees turn) on a motorcycle at 60mph is a rather disconcerting experience! Fortunately for me, so many things were in my favor. There was no other traffic in either direction, and there was no drainage ditch. There were no trees alongside the road, and no fences.
As soon as I realized the circumstances, I leaned the ‘bike over as far as I could in the hope that I might just be able to stay on the road. I soon realized that staying on the road was fast becoming not an option, so I prepared myself for a ride over a rough grass terrain which formed a hill on the side of the road. Once on the grass, the ‘bike was bouncing so much that I stood up (to get off the seat), and steered it as best I could up part of the hill and slowly directed it back to the road.
Once back on the road, I stopped… put it on its stand…and (being a smoker at the time) had a cigarette!
Thinking back to that ride, and a number of other escapades in my history, I am convinced that the difference between me living to tell the tales and those less fortunate… was simply luck!